Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Mise-en-scène Film Programme: La Belle et la Bête (1946)

Figure 1: Movie Poster
La Belle et la Bête (1946) was directed by the multi talented Jean Cocteau. He was a French poet, novelist, designer and a filmmaker. This film was based on a novel entitled Beauty and the Beast, written by Madame LePrince de Beaumont who was also a French novelist but from the 18th century.

Produced after the end of World War Two, this film was a huge success in France. This was because this film gave the audience a chance to break free from the harsh reality of life by believing in a bit of magic and miracle. This can be seen when Belle, who was very certain that she did not want to marry Beast at the start, fell in love with him at the end of it.  In a review written on Frocktalk, it was mentioned “La Belle et La Bête is a soothing balm of a fairy tale, engendering hope in the promise of new beginnings and restoring faith in the compassionate spirit of humankind. It is a story about breaking free from imprisonment and breaking forth into freedom. It was a message that people needed to hear then, a message that continues to resonate today.” (Frocktalk, 2009)

Figure 2: Beauty and the Beast in the Garden [Still Image]
The role of Beauty in this film does not defer from Disney’s Cinderella (1950) because Beauty too, had two older sisters who mistreated her. All they wanted was to be rich and to live the high- class life. When asked by their father what they wanted before he left to settle some business related stuff, Beauty had asked for a rose reasoning that it was something that was not available in her village. Her father, who landed himself at a castle as he was lost on his way home, took shelter there for the night had left the place by plucking a rose from the garden. This upsets the Beast who threatened to take his life away unless he awards the Beast with one of his daughters. Beauty willingly volunteered to take over her father’s place after finding out what happened, as she felt guilty because the gift she asked for brought huge consequences to her father’s life. Upon arriving at the castle and entering the doorway of castle, the place was lighted with arms holding on to candelabra. She later fainted when she first encountered with Beast of whom that visited her everyday at 7pm while she had her dinner, asking for her hand in marriage. As the film progressed, she found herself more attracted to him. It was not because of his physical appearance that captured her heart but because of his kindness towards her. This projects the well- known idiom “Don’t judge a book by its cover”.

Figure 3: Beauty entering the doorway [Still Image]
Apart from the plot, the set designs played an equally important role to make it a successful film. The use of actual humans arms holding on to candelabra, observing statues and the following eyes made the whole set more tensed and keeps the audience in suspense. Even Cocteau mentioned this in his diary. “The effect is so intensely magical that I wonder if the camera can possibly get it. These heads are alive, they look, they breathe smoke from their nostrils, they turn, they follow the movements of the artists, who don’t see them. Perhaps, this is how the objects which surround us behave, taking the advantage of out habit of believing them to be immobile.” (Cocteau, 1972)

Figure 4: Statue's Head [Still Image]
In addition to that, the costume worn by Beast would have been a Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) if advance technology was available. But Cocteau and his production team did a spectacular job in dressing up Beast that made the audience believed that it was real. In agreement to Roger Ebert, he points out Before the days of computer effects and modern creature makeup, here is a fantasy alive with trick shots and astonishing effects, giving us a Beast who is lonely like a man and misunderstood like an animal.” (Ebert, 1999)

Besides that, the film uses camera tricks called the in-camera special effects. It is basically stopping the camera from rolling and replacing an object with something else before the scene continues. This technique was used as early as the start of the 20th Century and could be seen from the film Le Voyage Dans La Lune (1902). An example of using this technique in this film would be shooting Beauty and the ex Beast rising into mid air. They were photographed at high speed as the fall to ground and in post production, the order was reversed.

Figure 5: Beauty and Beast floating in mid air [Still Image]

In conclusion, this film was not only visually captivating with the amazing set and costume designs but also a film with meaning. As Grunes put it, Today, it is almost universally acknowledged as one of the greatest of cinematic masterpieces, virtually unrivalled in its intense lyrical power and sumptuous visual artistry.” (Grunes, 2004)

List of Illustrations:

Figure 1 La Belle et la Bête (1946) [Poster] at http://i.imgur.com/s1wYU.jpg accessed on 28 October 2013

Figure 2 Beauty and the Beast in the garden [Still Image] at http://bp3.blogger.com/_uwgefwgTLwc/SH5IhKMfFnI/AAAAAAAAA9w/-b0lESBoUJM/s1600-h/500bellebete3.jpg accessed on 28 October 2013

Figure 3 Beauty entering the doorway [Still Image] at http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_Wai0KpzGIPQ/SCG2U8OyXHI/AAAAAAAAAzM/PEr4-2H6lgM/s400/beautyandthebeast_cc_03.jpg accessed on 28 October 2013

Figure 4 Statue’s Head [Still Image] at http://www.burningsettlerscabin.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/La-belle-et-la-bete-still-2.jpg accessed on 28 October 2013

Figure 5 Beauty and Beast Floating in mid air [Still Image] at http://louis.chatel.free.fr/images_blogs/stars_cine/belle_bete_6.jpg on 28 October 2013

List of Bibliography:

Cocteau, Jean.
Beauty and the Beast: Diary of a Film.Courier Dover Publications

Ebert, Roger
Beauty and the Beasthttp://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-beauty-and-the-beast-1946
Accessed on 28 October 2013

Grunes, Dennis
La Belle et la Bête (1946)http://frenchfilmguide.com/movies/FFG_La_Belle_et_la_bete_1946_review.html
Accessed on 28 October 2013

La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast)http://frocktalk.com/?p=1520
Accessed on 28 October 2013


  1. Good stuff, Ayunie - striking while the iron is hot! Good project management :)

  2. Well done Ayunie! This is a thoughtful review...it sounds like you enjoyed the film :)
    Quotes used to good effect, and all referenced properly...what more can I say? (Well, one niggly little thing - your font has changed size in the last paragraph! )

    1. Thanks Jackie! Yup, i really did! :D It was refreshing to watch something other than the Disney's version. And about the fonts, I've changed it :)